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Erin O’Neill “The Same And Far Away” Thoughts…

Today Erin Etoroma’s new album “The Same And Far Away” is released into the wild. A few (lengthy) thoughts on the production of the album…

We decided early on that this recording was going to be done differently. Or at least differently for 2019.

For those who might not be aware: Most recordings these days are done one instrument at a time. Often in different locations. And modern recording technology gives us the ability to “correct” nearly every aspect of a performance, and human beings are living contradictions. We almost never do anything perfectly, but we have a deep desire to make things perfect if given the opportunity. (No, this is not a screed against the evils perpetrated by modern technology on the art of recorded music. Great music is created in all sorts of ways, and I have NO wish to travel back to a time when every single day started with a pot tweaker in one hand, and an MRL alignment tape in the other.)

I’d seen 4/5th’s of the band we gathered to make this album perform together live. Something about the vibe they created together felt absolutely magical, and that feeling is what Erin and I agreed we wanted to capture. That meant capturing live band performances, and keeping as much of those original takes as possible. Including the little moments of humanity we often choose to sift/iron out of recordings these days.

I want to be as clear as possible about this for the non-musicians who might be reading: There is a HUGE difference between a “human moment,” and a, “mistake.” A human moment is playing a note slightly out of tune in a way that unexpectedly adds to the emotion of the song. If you listen to that note by itself it may very well sound “wrong,” and our instinct is to use the tools at our disposal to fix it. But in the context of this musical stew we’re hearing it’s like an overly strong dash of pepper that turns out to be exactly what this particular dish needs. Correct it, and you lose the flavor.

We wanted the foundation of this album to be built around the personalities of the people creating it. We knew from the live show that their “extra pinch of this,” or, “a little less of that,” would be essential to the emotion of the recording. Which meant each of us had to be brave enough to leave our individual imperfections alone in the service of the bigger emotional picture. It’s SO much harder than it sounds! Try typing up your resumé without autocorrect on, re-reading it without fixing the mistakes, and submitting it for a job posting! That’s sort of what this felt like. Of course then it naturally follows that the better you are as a typist, the better the end result…

…And this is where the thank you’s begin. First of all we had the perfect studio at our disposal in Dave’s Room. Owned and operated by the wonderful David Spreng, and Paul Figueroa. This place feels like you’re making a record in the most glorious 1970’s living room imaginable. Of course it goes without saying the acoustics, and equipment are top-notch. Just as important is the fact that everybody can see each other even when they’re locked away in isolation booths. So we got the highest possible quality of recording, and the most musician-friendly performance situation.

My lord what musicians they are. Erin is a stunning singer, songwriter, vocal arranger, and a powerful enough force as an artist to get us all on board. Deen Anbar brought so much thoughtful tone, and vibe to the electric guitar parts. His solo work here gets better with every listen. Jacob Mann felt like he was turning a musical key in a lock for each song jumping between Piano, B3, Wurlitzer, and his signature Juno vibe. Zephyr Avalon is a monster bassist whose belief in the project from the very beginning was as inspirational as his commitment to finding the perfect bass part, sound, and groove. Finally Efa Etoroma Jr. on drums was a revelation. This kind of Americana/rock vibe is not his everyday gig, but listening to the final product you’d swear he’d spent a lifetime living in it.

Kingdom 2 Music also deserves a huge thank you for standing behind Erin’s music, our process, and the final product from the very beginning. Knowing it had a great home with supportive people (Steven Gooding and Mike Giffin) was huge for us. If you’re a music supervisor who wants to include any of these songs in an upcoming project, get in touch with Kingdom 2 for all of your placement needs!

Finally I want to say a little personal thank you to the brilliant producer, mixer, and engineer Jim Scott (Plyrz Studios). From the very moment I heard this music being performed live back in February I was inspired by the sound of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ “Wildflowers.” Jim engineered the great majority of that album, and you can hear his fingerprints all over it. I’ve had the great good fortune to get to know, and work with him a little bit over the past year. Every time I walked out of one of his sessions I was inspired to try some new idea, or approach the next time I pulled up one of these tracks. I won’t dare suggest we equalled the accomplishment of that masterpiece of an album, but what we did achieve was in large part due to standing on its’ – and Jim’s – shoulders.

The result is an album that we’re all very proud of. It started as a labor of love, and became something that truly is greater than the sum of its parts. I think I speak for everyone involved when I say we all hope you love it as much as we do.

If you’re coming to the release show tonight at Unseen Contemporary tonight at 8pm, I’ll see you there! Come say hello. If not, you can check out the album on your favorite streaming service now! Drop me a line, and let me know what you think!

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